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Australian slang for dummies

Fiona Ren

Tue Feb 14 2012

Aussie lingo

THE images that came to Meld reporter Fiona Ren’s mind when she first heard the term “thongs” in Australia weren’t flip flops, but flimsy underwear. This week, she shares 10 phrases that could save you from potential embarrassment in front of your Aussie peers.

1. Arvo

“Arvo” is the abbreviation of exactly what it sounds like: afternoon. That’s right, say it again. You will hear this word thrown around a lot – in class, in the gym, in your place of residence etc. This word will follow you.

So do remember that when someone tells you they want to meet at three in the arvo, they are not informing you of a geographical location, but rather the hour of the day.

2. Tea

The definition of “tea” ranges from the beverage that goes deliciously well with cake and biscuits, to the instance when tea and cake and biscuits are in the midst of being consumed as a light afternoon snack. Before I arrived in Melbourne about three years ago, these were the only two ways I interpreted tea.

I only found out that “tea” also meant dinner or supper when a friend asked if I was going to be free sometime “after tea”. I told him I would be, but only for a while because I had a dinner appointment booked for six o’clock that evening. Needless to say, I felt like a moron.

3. Barbie

Both girls and boys are enthusiasts of this particular “barbie”. While most outside Australia may automatically form a mental image of the blonde haired, blue-eyed doll when hearing the word, “barbie” here is in fact a contraction of barbeque. Barbies form a big part of Australian culture, so it might be beneficial for you to remember this term. You’d want to be aware when you actually get an invitation to one.

4. Vego (pronounced ve-jo)

You could probably figure this one out. “Vego” simply means vegetarian. Pretty straightforward, really. Save precious time by telling your waiter you’re a vego the next time you’re out at a restaurant. Abbreviations – they make life simpler.

5. Thongs

This one’s my favourite. Let me ask, what do you picture at the mention of “thongs”?

I remember being extremely confused by the utterances of several boys here during my first few months in Melbourne. Some of the things I’d heard ran along the lines of, “Let me get my thongs” and “I need new thongs”.

Of course, I did hear the ladies talk about “thongs” just as frequently, but that never struck me as strange, because like many of you I’m sure, “thongs” more commonly refers to that flimsy piece of cloth worn underneath clothes. Not flip-flops. But surprise surprise – thongs areflip-flops.

6. Fair go

The idea of “fair go” is integral to the Australian culture. To give someone a “fair go”, is to give someone a chance, since the idea itself is premised upon the Australian belief that every individual is entitled to equal opportunities.

7. Sheila

I personally don’t hear this one much. But I’m sure one day it would be useful to know that “sheila” is simply another way of saying girl/woman. So ladies, if you’re ever called “sheila”, don’t be offended. It’s not that he’s mistaken you for someone else. Maybe he just forgot your name.

8. Maccas

The alternative name for everybody’s favourite fast food restaurant – McDonald’s. Maccas… Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

9. Suss

If you were to see someone, say, lurking around the corridor of your apartment at three in the morning, you would say that person looked “suss”. Short for suspicious (wasn’t it obvious?), the slang may also be applied to situations or even ideas that just don’t seem to feel quite right.

10. Good on ya

This phrase is the verbal equivalent to giving someone a pat on the back.

For example: “I got a high distinction for my Marketing assignment!”

“What? Are you serious? Good on ya!”

If ever in doubt of when to use it, just think of it as being interchangeable with “well done”. You can’t go wrong.

Have you been baffled or amused by other Aussie slangs? Share your stories with us in the comments section below.